Is child safety the responsibility of the media? Yes, indeed
The UAE's Wadeema Law guarantees a child's rights, including education.
Among the many debates that we have every day in the newsroom, an interesting one the team had earlier this week was about whether or not to publish (actually, re-publish) the picture of a five-year-old boy found outside a mall in Dubai. The young boy was found on September 7 by a shopper who, upon realising that there was no adult with him, approached the authorities. In order to locate his parents, the police shared the boy's picture on their social media channels on September 8, which was then re-shared by most UAE-based media platforms, including Khaleej Times.
Acknowledging our responsibility as a media house, KT subsequently published follow-up stories about the boy over the next few days, in the hope of finding the missing parents. However, when 10 days later the boy's parents remained untraceable, the police decided to move him to the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children. It is then that the discussion began on how appropriate was it to continue publicising the boy's face. Sharing his picture during the first few days was in the hope of reuniting him with his parents, but that hope had ebbed considerably by day 10. We still sincerely hope for a speedy reunion but, God forbid, if that is not to be, then how prudent is it to continue flashing the boy's face in the media?
The UAE's Wadeema Law guarantees a child's rights, including education. So, even if no one comes forward to claim him, the boy is likely to be soon sent to school, where he will make new friends - could continuously flashing his face in the media prove to be counter-productive? It certainly could be - at least that's the conclusion that Team KT arrived at and, instead of again publishing his picture, we went with a generic illustration. We were glad when, a couple of days later, our decision stood vindicated by a call to respect children's privacy, made at the 'Responsible Media, Safe Child' session in a Child Safety Forum. KT hopes to continue playing our role in helping the UAE fulfil its ambition of becoming a world leader in child protection.